They tell you that some things get better with age: wine, fancy (smelly) cheese, overpriced steak, and sex. For most of my life, I was led to understand that I wouldn't have good sex until I was, like, 45—and met some random silver fox (aged, like a steak) at a casino somewhere who'd whisk me away and open my eyes to a much overdue sexual awakening. Then, and only then, would I discover the life-changing experience that is good sex (you can thank Sex And The City for my unrealistic expectations).
But here's the truth: you shouldn't have to wait to have good sex. And after the hump-and-dump eras of high school hookups and the occasional college "u up?", you deserve to have great casual sex in your 20s, and you deserve to have that for yourself—not because of some fictional DILF.
Her Campus spoke with Raquel Savage—therapist, educator & sex worker—about how casual sex culture changes in your 20s, and how you can navigate it to have sex as good as aged, fine wine.
Casual Sex IN Your 20s: An Overview
Casual sex culture in your 20s should be nothing like the college hookup scene—let's get that out of the way. The fact of the matter is, you're in your 20s now, and it's time to start having sex like it.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, "casual sex" is defined as, "sexual activity between people who are not established sexual partners or do not know each other well." Meaning: you're having fun, no strings attached.
"You get to explore and play and experiment with different partners, and gain a variety of experiences, a variety of bodies, a variety of sexual interests and desires to play around and practice with," Savage tells Her Campus. "It's also a relatively low-risk environment in the sense that, a lot of your hookups aren't people you're aiming to build serious relationships with. So, it's okay if it doesn't work out right."
Not only is your 20s an ideal time to have casual sex because relationships are so fluid, but your 20s are also full of experiences that can lead you to meet prospective partners, and gain more experience sexually.
"In your twenties, you typically have these opportunities that you don't have in thirties and forties," Savage says. "You're in school. You're at parties. You're going out. You're starting work. And so there are these opportunities that I think aren't the same when you're older that just make this time in your life really great for fun and play."
There are different types of sex, fyi
When we think of sex, we oftentimes approach it from a heteronormative mindset: P-in-V, penetrative sex. However, sex can be between any consenting humans—regardless of anatomy.
"A lot of heteronormative culture is like, the only kind of sex that's 'real sex' is P-in-V sex. That's not true," Savage tells Her Campus. "By unpacking all of the internalized stuff that you have learned so far, you're getting ahead of the game. A lot of folks do not start that process ever, but some start unlearning that in their thirties or forties. By knowing this now, it will inform how you approach your hookups and your relationships generally."
Trust Your Gut When It comes To Partners
Casual sex means engaging with different partners. And while this is exciting and exploratory, it's important to engage in sexual activity with people who feel safe, respect your boundaries, and act with good intentions.
Savage says, "Do your best to engage with people who you feel safe with. Use your intuition to sus out who is a safe sexual partner, or partners. If something's off or if something's not right, then f*cking leave. Stop engaging in that situation, or leave that party. Building up your intuition, your gut, in your twenties is such an important practice. This gives you the opportunity to practice what your body recognizes as safe versus unsafe, which are really two important feelings to be able to recognize clearly."
"I think also being able to practice, being really firm about your boundaries from the very beginning is, is a way to help navigate the possible harm and, and dangers of hookup culture," Savage continues. "Your gut and your intuition are never wrong."
"come" to terms with communication
As a person with a vagina, I accepted—for a while—that I wouldn't be able to get the "big O" during sex. It was a myth, an unattainable feat like pulling the sword from King Arthur's stone. However, your 20s are the time to stand up for yourself (sexually) and get after what you want. After all, pleasure goes both ways—and it's unfair to leave any party unsatisfied.
"We engage in casual sex encounters because it is low risk, right? So because while it makes it easier to feel less pressure, it also means that people may treat you as even more disposable than they are already socialized to do," Savage warns. "It becomes one sided. It becomes a pattern where you are continuously engaging in casual sex encounters where they are getting their needs met, but you are not getting your needs met. You leave that encounter and then you do it again."
How to avoid this? Communication. Always communication.
According to Savage, "Practice communication skills in your day-to-day, you have to practice outside of the bedroom. I don't think if you're someone who has poor communication skills day to day, you're not gonna be able to go into the bedroom and have like these incredible communication skills."
By learning how to communicate outside of the bedroom, you have a better chance of communicating your sexual needs in the bedroom—leading to better sex overall. Tell your partner when they're doing something that feels good, communicate your kinks, fantasies, and desires with your sexual partner beforehand, and don't be afraid to speak up if you don't orgasm. Your 20s are a time of hands-on sexual education, and not only are you bettering the way you have sex, but also the way someone else does. It's a win-win!
practice makes perfect, even if it's solo
Like all things, practice makes perfect. And yes, that includes sex. However, this doesn't mean you should engage in partner sex in order to define your desires (but if that's your MO, be safe about it). Instead, you could benefit from solo masturbation to learn more about your body, and what gets you off sexually.
"Please start playing with yourself, start exploring your own body, get some nice sex toys, and have fun exploring yourself," Savage tells Her Campus. "It's important just for eroticism to learn how to pleasure yourself, learn how to make yourself feel good, learn about your own body, and practice just taking up erotic space with yourself."
Savage also recommends consuming ethical porn (that benefits sex workers directly) to help learn more about what pleasures you.
"The great thing about how porn, currently, is set up is that you can find content, creators, and porn performers who look like you, and who engage in sexual practices that you're interested in," Savage says. "So, pay for your porn and consume ethical porn that makes you feel good and affirmed and allows you to explore your sexuality."
Put Your health first
Always remember to practice safe sex with an effective form of birth control, get tested regularly for STDs before engaging in sex with new partners, and be smart about illnesses and diseases that exist in the world. Your body is so important: it deserves not only pleasure, but safety as well!
oh, and don't forget to have fun
Simply put, sex is great. Once you're educated, informed, and mature enough to start having casual sex, then it's time to get to the fun part. And if casual sex isn't your thing, there's nothing wrong with that. Remember: this is all about you and your pleasure. Nobody elses.
"Go f*ck, and have fun," Savage says. "There is something I think, special and magical about just exploring and playing in the newness of having sex when you're in your twenties. Allow yourself to really just be playful, explore, have fun, be erotic, and figure out what eroticism looks like to you."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.